Friday, January 7, 2011

Radiation Report

Dec. 23, 2010
It’s 4:56 p.m. on Thursday and Ken and I are barely home from the highly specialized radiation procedure that took place yesterday in Los Angeles. We took the train in the driving rain on Tuesday because it seemed simpler.
We arrived at Union Station about 3:30. One of our friends drove us to Kaiser’s apartments on Kenmore, free to out-of-town patients undergoing major procedures. We dropped off our stuff at the apartment and headed for Little Thailand just a half block north on Hollywood Blvd, a very nice way to dine and we enjoyed our friend’s company. Back at the apartment by about 6:30, both Ken and I were exhausted and fell in bed about 7:30.
We were due at the radiation center at 8:00 a.m. Wed., Dec. 22. An earlier procedure used a metal halo fitted to the head with screws that actually broke skin to keep the head immobile during the procedure. This has changed. Ken was fitted with a warm highly porous plastic material draped over his face following every curve of his eye sockets, nose, forehead, lips, chin, cheek and jawbones. This was pressed to fit tightly before it hardened. A similar “mask” for the back of his head was created. The two halves would be bolted together during the procedure rendering his head immobile. Creating the mask took about 45 minutes and then Ken was dismissed to do as he wished as long as he turned up at 2:00 p.m. We walked to the hospital cafeteria called Rejuv(n)ate, easily one of the best restaurants in town, ate a good lunch, went back to the apartment, took naps and turned up on time. We waited in a lovely room called the Atrium, a three-story basement room done in soothing blues with many paintings and plants. Ken was called in about 2:30 and at 3:15 returned walking steadily and saying he thought sight was better in his left eye. Recently, his vision had deteriorated. Was that further damage by the tumor? Don’t know.
The radiation is called “Shaped Beam,” a highly focused, very powerful beam that kills cancerous cells but doesn’t kill healthy tissue. He was strapped on a table wearing his headdress. The technician aligned Ken with the machine, walked out of the room and switched a button. Ken felt his table move him in various angles while the machine clanked and whirred its way through the process. When it was done, he was unstrapped and the headdress removed and presented to him as a trophy.
Kaiser scheduled us for one more night in the apartment. We picked up dinner at the New York Cafe across the street. All our walking, a block here, two blocks there, had been done in driving rain but the trip across the street was even wetter. We placed our orders to-go and while we waited, the sun came out and a double full rainbow arced from the Hollywood Hills to Sunset’s Kaiser Hospital. Is this an omen? We hope so.
Thursday morning Ken woke feeling fine but tired. A tumor about the size of a walnut had developed on the right behind his forehead and another spot was embedded deeper on the left. Both are gone now. According to the doctors, his body will slough off dead tissue for the next several weeks while repairing minimal bits of injured healthy tissue at the tumor’s edges. Ken can expect fatigue.
But life isn’t as simple as having a machine kill tumor cells in your head. While we were eating, Ed who lives on our property, called to say the biggest pepper tree at the head of the driveway fell over and blocked passage. Ken called his friend Roger and asked him cut it back enough to give room for entry and exit on this Christmas weekend.
And life isn’t even as simple as burning tumors out and having peppertrees fall over. When we got to Union Station, we learned there’d been a landslide blocking the tracks south of Capistrano. The train could only take us that far. Luckily, son Drew. who doesn’t live far from there, was available and willing, so he picked us up and delivered us to our car in Oceanside with a pause for sushi lunch. We arrived home around 4:00, found that, indeed, the tree (huge) had been cut away, and here we are, home, and as usual, tired. But it’s all good news. The tumors are gone. The rain is over. We were saluted by two rainbows. We got past Capistrano and there’s room to enter our driveway. How many good things can we ask for in two and a half days?
We are grateful and hope you will count your blessings on this Christmas Day which is just two days from now. Love, Phee & Ken

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